New Blu-ray releases

(Welcome to Not Dead Yet, a feature dedicated to what’s new on Blu-ray and what special features you should be excited about. Because yes, some of us still like to own physical copies of our movies.)

Happy Halloween! Open your goodie bags and/or plastic pumpkin buckets and I’ll drop some fine physical media in there. In this latest Blu-ray round-up, I’ve got a group of films that are actually perfect for Halloween. They’re also perfect for any day besides Halloween, too. You don’t need Halloween as an excuse to watch creepy movies, folks. They’re good all year round.

Below you’ll find a George Romero later-day zombie film, a remake of a Romero classic, a spooky post-modern ghost story starring Kristen Stewart, and a polarizing trip to Twin Peaks. Here are the new Blu-ray releases you should check out this week.

Personal Shopper

In Personal Shopper, Kristen Stewart sends the following text message to a stranger who may or may not be a ghost: “R U alive or dead?” It sounds silly, but Olivier Assayas’ weird, hypnotic ghost story finds ways of making the silly seem serious. The key to making all this work is Stewart, one of the very best actresses of her generation.

It’s hard to put into words just what makes Stewart such a fascinating actress. She’s very low-key in her performance here, and it’s a performance that relies frequently on quirks and tics – the way she bites her nails, the way she stumbles over words. Yet Stewart’s performance in Personal Shopper is almost hypnotic. We can’t look away as she chain smokes one cigarette after another, or checks her phone, or gets wrapped up in a murder mystery.

Stewart is a personal shopper for a hellish actress, and when she’s not out buying fancy clothes for her client, she’s attempting to contact the ghost of her twin brother who died of a heart defect that Stewart’s character also has. Along the way, she gets wrapped up in a game of cat and mouse, sort of, with a mysterious person sending her mysterious text messages.

Assayas’ film, set in Paris during a chilly autumn, moves at its own deliberate pace, yet it’s never boring. Again, this is due almost entirely to Stewart, who somehow makes long sequences of text sending very cinematic and engrossing. After a while, you feel like you could watch Stewart texting all day and never get tired of it. All of this makes the film sound more boring and less driven than it actually is, but Personal Shopper is constantly moving forward. Like Stewart’s character, the movie is always on the go, as if it’s trying to outrun something. Perhaps death itself.

In the end, Personal Shopper is almost unclassifiable. The film features supernatural elements, including several genuinely spooky scenes involving ghosts. Yet I wouldn’t exactly call it a horror movie. Instead, it’s a meditation on grief and life. It’s a haunted film about being haunted, where the thing doing the haunting might in fact be your own mind. It’s an altogether fascinating film, and one of the very best of the year.

Special Features to Note:

I was thrilled that Personal Shopper ended up as part of the Criterion Collection. I was less thrilled when I saw the special features, or lack thereof. We get a filmed conference from the 2016 Cannes Film Festival where Stewart and members of the cast talk about the production, and we also get a new interview with Assayas.  

There, Assayas talks about how, before he made Personal Shopper, he had an image in his head of a girl who rides a scooter who hates her job. Also, he had wanted long wanted to make a genre film that dealt with the supernatural. After thinking on these topics for a while, Assayas combined them into this film. “I think the supernatural is what happens outside the sphere of our senses,” he says. It’s not a bad interview, but again, this film deserves much more. A more in-depth interview with Stewart, where she delves into her character, would’ve been perfection. Alas, it was not to be.

Special Features include:

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:

2K digital transfer, supervised by director of photography Yorick Le Saux and approved by director Olivier Assayas, with 5.1 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
New interview with Assayas
2016 Cannes Film Festival press conference featuring actor Kristen Stewart and other members of the film’s cast and crew
Theatrical trailer
PLUS: An essay by critic Glenn Kenny

Land of The Dead

The late, great George Romero kept making zombie movies throughout his career, but none could ever measure up to his original unholy trilogy – Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead. The only film that came close was 2005’s Land of the Dead, which had Romero returning to the genre he basically created after much time away.

The funny thing about Land of the Dead is it feels even more relevant today than it did in 2005. Dennis Hopper, who rules over a walled-in city oblivious to the world of zombies beyond, could very easily be a Donald Trump stand-in. Land of the Dead is set in a post-post apocalyptic world. Zombies still shuffle through the world in search of flesh to eat, but Hopper has constructed a walled-in world inside the luxury condo community known as Fiddler’s Green. Within the walls of Fiddler’s Green, the wealthy upper class live in complete luxury, willfully ignorant of the zombies outside. To them, life is perfectly normal; there’s nothing to worry about.

Except, there is. It’s only a matter of time before those ghouls breach the walls and come storming in. All of this is great stuff – like the best of Romero’s zombie films, he’s using the undead to tell a socially conscious story. Unfortunately, the bulk of the humans he has populating the film are complete duds. Simon Baker is so boring as our hero that he may as well be part of the scenery. This is no doubt by design; Romero’s zombie films care more about the dead than the living. But when we’re forced to spend so much time with these dull humans, it starts to wear us down.

Still, Romero was clearly ahead of his time here. At the time he made this film, the idea of a Trump-like figure as a Presidential leader seemed impossible (not that it doesn’t still seem that way, here in 2017). Yet Romero has the Trumpian character Hopper plays ruling over his kingdom with disdain and complete disregard for anyone’s well-being but his own. Romero knew. We should’ve listened to him.

Special Features to Note:

Just in time for Halloween, Scream Factory is releasing both Land of the Dead and the Dawn of the Dead remake on new Blu-rays. There are a ton of special features here, although I must sadly say a lot of them aren’t overly exciting. The bulk of the new stuff here consists of new interviews, including one with Land of the Dead co-star John Leguizamo. But Shout Factory has a problem when it comes to their special feature interviews: they’re kind of dull. There never seems to be anyone guiding the interviews, and as a result the subjects tend to ramble.

Still, it’s great to have this Blu-ray, and there are good features here. Primarily the documentary Dream of the Dead, which is about the making of Land. Not only is it a nice archival doc that transports the viewer back to the ancient time of 2005, it also covers Romero’s zombie movie career in general, and is clearly a loving tribute to a great filmmaker who has since shuffled off this mortal coil. Anyone who is a fan of Romero’s zombie films should get their hands on this ASAP.

Special Features Include:

DISC ONE: Theatrical Cut

NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive

NEW Cholo’s Reckoning – An Interview With Actor John Leguizamo

NEW Charlie’s Story – An Interview With Actor Robert Joy

NEW The Pillsbury Factor – An Interview With Actor Pedro Miguel Arce

NEW Four Of The Apocalypse – An Interview With Actors Eugene Clark, Jennifer Baxter, Boyd Banks, And Jasmin Geljo

Dream Of The Dead: The Director’s Cut With Optional Commentary By Director Roy Frumkes

Deleted Footage From Dream Of The Dead

Deleted Scenes

Theatrical Trailer

DISC TWO: Uncut Version

NEW 2K Scan Of The Interpositive With HD Inserts

NEW Audio Commentary With Zombie Performers Matt Blazi, Glena Chao, Michael Felsher, And Rob Mayr

Audio Commentary With Writer/Director George A. Romero, Producer Peter Grunwald, And Editor Michael Doherty

Undead Again: The Making Of Land Of The Dead

Bringing The Dead To Life

Scenes Of Carnage

Zombie Effects: From Green Screen To Finished Scene

Scream Test – CGI Test

Bringing The Storyboards To Life

A Day With The Living Dead Hosted By John Leguizamo

When Shaun Met George

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